NZ's first high strength 'rammed-earth' building for Kawakawa

By Raniera Harrison

Kawakawa's newest complex was the site of technology testing today, as workers prepared to take on Te Hononga- the country's first rammed-earth commercial building- as an ode to the late Austrian architect, Friedensreich Hundertwasser.

"It's the first high strength rammed-earth structure in New Zealand.  We're on our way to get 30mPA with the strength cylinders, and we're about 6 times over the earth-building code in New Zealand" says Canadian rammed-earth architect, Tony Johnson.

Initial construction is underway at the new Hundertwasser Park Centre development, in Kawakawa.  The first of its kind nationwide, the environmentally-aware building, aptly named 'Te Hononga' - will pay homage to Hundertwasser, who passed away in 2000.

Ngāti Hine representative trustee on the Hundertwasser Trust, Pita Tipene says, "Ngāti Hine supports the Hundetwasser initiative because of the concept of uniting as one, that brings together core values and exclusivities of Ngāti Hine and Hundertwasser together.  We will soon see the end result."

Construction that has seen Canadian rammed-earth specialists bought in especially for the project.

"These overseas experts who have come to support are well versed in this line of work.  They have the methodology for Sirewall," says Tipene.

Sirewall is a relatively new technology to the market, referred to as a 'structural sandwich wall system' that uses local soils combined with 6% to 10% of a cement compound.

"We've taken earthbuilding and added a bit of technology and science to the mix design.  Obviously if we're going to get 30mPA, obviously we're giving it some thought- we've analysed the soils in the area and found the best ones," says Johnson.

The new building is expected to be opened in December next year to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the opening of the world-famous Hundertwasser toilets in the town.

The first stage of construction is expected to be completed next week.